Thursday, October 26, 2023

Ten Days of Terror!: Galaxy of Terror

Film: Galaxy of Terror
Format: Streaming video from Tubi TV on Fire!

In the movie world, there’s a lot of talk about how good Roger Corman is at finding talent. The list of directors who started out working for Corman. His stable includes Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Francis Ford Coppola, Joe Dante, and Peter Bogdanovich. That seems to be a strange thing to bring up concerning the early ‘80s sci-fi spook show Galaxy of Terror helmed by Bruce D. Clark (director of such classics as Naked Angels and The Ski Bum), but the production design was headed up by one James Cameron, who went on to be fired by Corman as the director of Piranha II: The Spawning.

Galaxy of Terror is an odd little film with an equally odd cast. Among those who will be traveling through space and encountering slimy creatures are erotic film maestro Zalman King (who looks for all the world like a poor man’s Rene Auberjonois), son of Hollywood royalty Edward Albert, Rob Zombie regular Sid Haig, and a pre-Elm Street Robert Englund, along with Bernard Behrens, Ray Walston, and Erin Moran.

The film opens with the survivor of a spaceship crash being pursued by something we don’t see. We flash to a different planet where someone called the Planet Master, his face obscured by flames, tells a Commander Ilvar (Behrens) to take a ship to the planet where that crash happened and investigate the wreck. Off we go then, learning a bit about our ship’s captain (Grace Zabriskie), the only survivor of a famous wreck. This is going to be brought up a lot, but isn’t really going to play much into the plot aside from making Captain Trantor flighty and twitchy.

Anyway, we get to the planet in question and our spacefaring folk go out to investigate the crash. Since Galaxy of Terror came out two years after Alien, the comparisons here are going to be both natural and apt. A party from the ship boards the wreck, and all they find are dead bodies. However, the team’s empath Alluma (Moran) senses that there is a living presence that she can’t quite pinpoint. As the team leaves the wreck, a nervous rookie named Cos (Jack Blessing) gets dragged off into the darkness and killed.

And this is how things are going to go. Team members are going to be isolated and picked off one by one, often in ways that involve slimy critters attacking them and slobbering on them. This reaches its peak in the character of the ship’s technical officer Dameia (Taaffe O’Connell), who is accosted by a giant space slug that manages to strip her completely before essentially killing her with sex (in a scene that had to be heavily edited to avoid an X-rating). We’ll have some surprise deaths along the way, again like Alien until we are down to our last few and we can have a final confrontation with what is really going on.

There is little doubt that Galaxy of Terror was created to pick the same bones as Alien. This is important for several reasons. First, it gives a lot of context to exactly what is happening. You’re not going to be surprised when someone else gets targeted, because that’s exactly what happens in the effective source material. These scenes (aside from space slug sex) are repetitive, which is criminal in a movie with an 82-minute run time, but it happens to be the case. What’s more important is who worked on this movie. Who was the production designer of Galaxy of Terror? James Cameron. Who directed Aliens, the blockbuster sequel to Alien? James Cameron.

What we’re going to get here, ultimately, is a little smarter than we might suspect. While everything leading into the third act screams that this is ripping off the better parts of Ridley Scott, once we get there, a large chunk of the plot decides that it wants to be Forbidden Planet instead. This is not a complaint on my part—it makes sense with where the plot goes and with everything we’ve seen before. While the last few minutes are pure cheese indeed, what gets us to that slice of cinematic gouda is smarter than you’d expect and references things that are equally surprising.

Galaxy of Terror isn’t a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a fun one in a goofy sci-fi way. Sure, it’s got its gory bits and lots of slime and goop, but that’s all a part of the fun. Don’t take it nearly as seriously as it wants to take itself because it’s not worth it, but enjoy it for what it is—outer space monsters and giant slugs attacking naked space vixens.

Why to watch Galaxy of Terror: It may well be inadvertently responsible for Aliens.
Why not to watch: Alien is better on all fronts except for surprise nudity.


  1. A movie called "Galaxy of Terror" WOULD have nudity going for it. lol

    1. That name could go in a lot of directions, but nudity does seem the obvious one.